Florida’s legislature enacted the child support guidelines to ensure that a uniform method of calculating support would be used when establishing or modifying child support in courts throughout the state. These guidelines set forth items that must be used in arriving at the correct amount of support. The law is specific in defining what is to be included in the parties’ gross incomes, the allowable deductions to be used in arriving at each parent’s net income and other factors required when determining the presumptively correct support for each child.
The guidelines were developed with the normal needs of children in mind. Any extraordinary needs such as ongoing medical expenses, special dietary requirements, and other unusual costs must be added to the base guidelines amount. Child-care and health insurance costs must be included as well.
While the guidelines are very specific as to the correct amount to be set, it does allow the courts flexibility to depart from them to arrive at a more just figure. A court may deviate from guidelines by 5% up or down without explanation. However, if the deviation exceeds 5%, the judge is required to explain his or her reasons for exceeding the limitation in writing.
Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes contains the Uniform Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines establish a presumptively correct amount of support based upon each party’s net income and the number of children of the marriage. The parents’ combined monthly net income is used to determine how much money is available for child support. The net amount is related to a fixed support number. For example if the father has an after tax income of $3,000 per month and the mother has an after tax income of $2,000 per month, this makes $5,000 available for the family needs. If the parties have two children, $5,000 under the guidelines chart corresponds to a presumed need of $1,551 per month. In the example given the father earns 60% of that $5,000 so he will pay 60% of the $1,551 and the mother will make up the balance.
The foregoing is a simplified explanation of the guidelines but is a good starting point to discuss with your lawyer. Other factors can significantly change the child support amount including the costs of health care, day care, timesharing and any special needs of the children. Reviewing a copy of the Child Support Worksheet can be helpful in understanding the process used by the court to establish support amounts.
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Modifying Child Support Amounts
An unexpected loss of employment or sharp reduction in pay are substantial changes in circumstances that will sustain a downward modification of a parent’s support obligation. Similarly, a substantial increase in income may serve to increase a parent’s share of support. The child’s increased needs can be a factor in modifying support as well. For example, physical illness or an accident can give rise to unexpected long term expenses. So can emotional problems requiring psychological or psychiatric treatment.
In each case, the party seeking modification must present substantial competent evidence as to the change in circumstances and the necessary and reasonable costs to be incurred in addressing the problem. A temporary increase or decrease in earnings is not sufficient as the law requires a permanent change in circumstances.
If you have been served with modification documents or if you want to modify your child support payments or the payments of the other parent call us to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our skilled attorneys (321) 631-0506.